Barring Basis Risk, Barron’s is Bullish
Despite 195 nations signing onto the Paris Climate Conference commitment to clean energy last week, it looks like Santa will be stuffing most asset managers’ stockings with coal this Christmas. Hopefully it’s at least low-sulfur.
December has been a rough slog for the RIA space. So far it’s mostly been attributed to the cracks in high yield credit. With junk bonds stumbling shortly after Thanksgiving, managers with large high yield offerings are feeling the Grinch. One standout example: WDR. Waddell & Reed’s Ivy High Income Fund has suffered huge outflows this year. Pile outflows with asset devaluation and WDR’s stock has gotten crushed, losing almost a quarter of the company’s equity market cap so far this month (!).
The International Private Equity and Venture Capital Valuation (IPEV) Guidelines were developed in 2005 to set out recommendations on best practices in the valuation of private equity investments. The IPEV Board is made up of leading industry associations from around the world, including the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) and the Private Equity Growth Capital Council (PEGCC) in the United States. In October 2015, the IPEV Board published draft amendments to the existing guidelines that, if approved, will go into effect at the beginning of 2016.
Investment managers who expected the Square IPO to settle the debate on high private equity valuations have been, so far at least, thoroughly disappointed. Square, Inc. went public on November 17 at just $9 per share and opened debate in a venture community wary of high valuations on whether or not investment terms can compensate for high prices. In other words, do special investor provisions designed to protect late round investors from frothy PE valuations do more harm than good? In our last post on IPOs, we discussed the current imbalance between the public and private markets, in which an exuberance of private equity capital has driven up private valuations and created a dislocation between the privately established value of the firm and the publicly achieved value available at IPO. As a consequence of this phenomenon, IPO activity fell to new lows in the third quarter, as 16% of IPOs downsized their debuts. Square is one of a growing number of companies resorting to equity protections in order to attract late-stage investors, often at the expense of employees and earlier investors.
As the dust settles in the aftermath of the third quarter, we take a look at several earnings calls from pace makers in the RIA industry. Changes in the character of the financial markets is driving change in firm business models, and out of this we see a few common themes that we expect will play a role in shaping the industry going forward.
Concurrent with Madeleine Harrigan’s post last week about IPOs being the new private equity downround, the financial reporting group at Mercer Capital published an interview with the head of the group, Travis Harms, on the difficulties mutual funds face in valuing level 3 assets (think Square). The following is an excerpt from that interview.
There’s something about nature that abhors a vacuum. Right now that vacuum seems to be the imbalance between the public and private markets, with the latter attracting maybe too much interest since the credit crisis, at the expense of the former. Blame fair value accounting or Sarbanes-Oxley or the plaintiff’s bar, but it has been some time since being public was actually considered a good thing. With interest running high in the “alternative asset space” and cheap debt for LBOs, the costs of being public have not been particularly worthwhile. This situation is not sustainable, and was never meant to be. Family businesses can stay private forever, but institutional investors eventually need the kind of liquidity that can only come from the breadth of ownership afforded by established public markets. Valuations are never really proven until exposed to bids and asks.
The shorthand method of valuation in many industries has long been some kind of “rule of thumb,” usually a multiple of some measure of gross scale or activity. In this post, we consider the pitfall of relying strictly on a rule of thumb.
Despite the recent setback in the markets, RIA transaction activity posted solid gains for Q3 and into the month of October. The market’s stabilization since the last correction has clearly boded well for sector M&A, and the future appears bright – as long as security pricing holds up.
Sometimes the fear of a thing is worse than the thing itself, and being haunted by proposed regulations may indeed turn out to be worse than compliance. The horror show of FinCEN may turn into a series with multiple episodes. In this post, we examine this proposed regulation and its implications.
Last week brought the news that PE firm Hellman & Friedman acquired a controlling interest in mega wealth manager Edelman Financial. Edelman is headed by radio-show personality Ric Edelman and manages about $15 billion for over 28,000 clients. While terms of the deal were not officially disclosed, the Wall Street Journal reported the transaction valued Edelman at a number north of $800 million, a nice pickup on Edelman’s going private deal in 2012, which transacted the company at $263 million. The financial press was practically hyperventilating over the price last week, but a little analysis on the number reveals pricing that is more normal than most would imagine.